Compiègne, not even 90 kilometers north-east from Paris, is a great place to discover a typical french city far away from the usual beaten tracks. It is also a city with a rich history because Louis XV as well as Napoleon I and Napoleon III came here for leisure and hunting. Furthermore, it was in the famous forest of Compiègne, that the Armistice of World War I was signed in 1918.
The Old Town
Coming from the Train station, the Louis XV Bridge leads you right into the heart of the city. By wandering around the small streets you can enjoy the traditional architecture from century-old houses.
On the main square, the beautiful city hall, built by Louis XVII in a gothic style, is famous for its Belfry. On its top the so-called “Picantins”, three local figurines, dance when the carillon rings.
The Imperial Palace
Just a bit further, the Palace of Compiègne will not leave you indifferent. The impressing Palace was built as a royal residence for Louis XV. However, even before the construction of the Palace, french monarchs used the city as a summer residence for hunting. It was Napoleon I who ordered the renovation of the Palace after the french revolution and chose the place for his first encounter with his future wife, the Austrian archduchesse Marie Louise. Today, the inside of the Palace is used as an art museum.
When arriving on the other side of the castle, the huge forest of Compiègne and its almost 15 ha of woods appear in straight lines. Before the french revolution, this was the place where the monarchs came to hunt. Today, the forest is a public space where locals gather for pic nics, walks or other activities.
Furthermore, the forest of Compiègne is a very important historic place, as this is where the Armistice of 1918 was signed in Marshal Ferdinand Foch’s train wagon. Today, a Memorial as well as a museum with a copy of the famous wagon can be visited.
Riverside and its floodgates
Compiègne is situated at the Oise river. The riverside with its traditional houses is great for a sunny afternoon walk.
Not far from the city center, you can see two floodgates. If you are lucky, one of the many barges passes by and you can see the floodgates operating.